News provided by www.uswp.org – Australian women water polo players cheered and wept yesterday after they won a 20-year battle to compete in the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee announced it had approved a competition of six teams of 11 members. “It’s great, we had no idea it was going to happen today, I just got a call this morning saying “be here’,” said one team member, Bronwyn Mayer. Announcing the decision at a media conference yesterday, the chairman of the IOC Co-ordination Commission inspecting Sydney’s Games, Dr Jacques Rogge, said the agreement to include women’s water polo would not affect Sydney’s cap of 10,200 athletes.
And it would be done without reducing the size of the men’s water polo teams from 13 to 11 players, as had been proposed by the president of the Australian Olympic Committee, Mr John Coates. Dr Rogge said the 10,200 limit negotiated last year was not a precise figure and that there was enough fat in those numbers to allow women’s water polo. “The 10,200 figure included a cushion,” he said.
Asked how big was the cushion, Dr Rogge said: “I can’t tell you how big. I don’t have the figures in my mind, but it was bigger than 66.” There was a cap of 10,000 athletes for the Barcelona Olympics and 400 of them did not turn up, he said. Such a shortfall was also likely for Sydney.
Yesterday’s decision came after a morning meeting that included Dr Rogge, Mr Coates, the president of SOCOG, Mr Michael Knight, the president of the international swimming body FINA, Mr Mustapha Larfaouie, and the IOC president, Mr Juan Samaranch, who joined the meeting by telephone from Switzerland.
The IOC and Australian organisers have been keen to include women’s water polo in the Games, especially as Australian team members have been stepping up their public campaign this year in a push to gain acceptance.
In April, members of the team dressed only in swimsuits protested before FINA members arriving at Sydney Airport and were later evicted from an IOC media conference they had gatecrashed in a blaze of publicity.
Dr Rogge insisted that no-one would be disadvantaged by the extra athletes. “We are not going to have people camping on Bondi because the village is full,” he said. “No extra accommodation will be needed, there will be no exceeding of the cap, no cuts to other sports, and no rotating of athletes out of the village.”
After three days of examining Sydney’s Games preparations, Dr Rogge said his commission was very impressed with the progress. Planning for security, transport, accommodation and the athletes’ village was going very well and there were no areas of concern, he said, apart from the level of Commonwealth contributions to the Games.
The official inclusion in the Olympic Games also means that women’s water polo will join the program of the 1999 Pan American Games, which will be held in Winnipeg, Canada.